Anti-poverty advocates expressed optimism that today’s budget renews Ontario’s commitment to reducing poverty and building a fairer and more prosperous province.
“This budget puts money in the pockets of low-income Ontarians and starts the process of social assistance reform that will create greater security and opportunity for low-income Ontarians,” said Sarah Blackstock, 25in5 spokesperson. “We are eager to work with all of the parties to ensure Ontario’s efforts to reduce poverty continue and that all Ontarians are supported to access opportunity and live with dignity.”
The 25in5 Network for Poverty Reduction had been encouraging Ontario’s political leaders to increase the Ontario Child Benefit to $1310/year per child in this budget to help ensure Ontario meets its poverty reduction target set in the province’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy. (The province committed to reduce child poverty by 25% by the end of 2013.) “We are disappointed that Ontario’s political leaders have failed to increase the Ontario Child Benefit to its maximum. We are hopeful that in the coming days, the government and opposition parties will reach an agreement to fully implement the OCB in 2013, a crucial step to meeting our poverty reduction target,” said Blackstock.
The budget increases social assistance rates by 1%, with an additional top up of $14/month for singles on Ontario Works without children. “It is significant that the Government has recognized that incomes for singles for people on Ontario Works require immediate attention. While we are eager to see further increases because the rates are still dangerously low. We are pleased that the Government has announced that it will work with stakeholders to establish benchmarks and a rational methodology for setting rates,” said Blackstock.
Other important changes include:
• allowing people on social assistance to earn $200/month before deductions
• allowing high-school students in families receiving social assistance to work part-time and keep their income
• increasing the amount of money people on Ontario Works can have in the bank when they apply for social assistance
• allowing people on Ontario Works to keep their primary vehicle, as people on ODSP can
• allowing people on Ontario Works to receive gifts of up to $6000 without penalty, as people on ODSP can
• increased funding for Employment Standards enforcement
The 25in5 Network was also disappointed that the budget did not announce a much-needed increase to the minimum wage. The Network maintains the minimum wage should be poverty-proofed.
“Investing in poverty reduction is essential to building a prosperous and fair Ontario – and this budget recognizes that,” Blackstock said. “We are pleased the Government has announced its intention to work with diverse stakeholders to develop Ontario’s next Poverty Reduction Strategy.”
For more information, contact Sarah Blackstock at 416-892-6845.